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This week a powerful parliamentary committee determined there is a need for greater parliamentary scrutiny of the ATO.  
The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit comprises Members of Parliament and Senators drawn from the Government and Opposition and is chaired by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott.  The Committee holds biannual hearings with the Commissioner of Taxation and has now published its first report.
Concerned about the increasing number of complaints about the ATO, the Committee will be expanding its hearings to include public evidence from bodies such as the Ombudsman, the Australian National Audit Office and the Inspector-General of Taxation as well as peak industry and consumer bodies.
The following statement from the report will no doubt resonate with Tax Institute members: “Members of the Committee acknowledge the relatively high satisfaction rates in response to the ATO’s client satisfaction surveys. In these surveys 83 per cent of people overall, 88 per cent of businesses and 79 per cent of tax agents think that the ATO is ‘doing a good job’. Nevertheless, the Committee noted that in their capacity as representatives of the community Committee Members are often dealing with the remaining 17, 12 and 21 per cent.”

The report made a number of other recommendations, including:

  • that the ATO move to using a traffic light reporting system when reporting publicly on its achievements against benchmarks, in particular its achievements against its service standards;
  • the next submission to the biannual hearing from the ATO to contain explicit consideration of, and reporting on action taken to improve complaint handling and address the underlying causes of complaints;
  • that the ATO’s submission to the next biannual hearing includes a report on compliance activities, specifically action taken to make compliance easier and improve communications; and
  • that the ATO details the process for developing implementation plans for policy, as part of its submission for the next biannual hearing;

The Committee’s next public hearing is in September and we look forward to being more directly involved in its deliberations.  You can read the Committee’s report in full here.
And on Sunday the Government will be releasing details of its Carbon Tax package.  The Tax Institute will be analysing the material and releasing some initial comments on Sunday ahead of more direct engagement with the Government on the tax design details of the package.

Please see below for details of other activities this week.

Robert Jeremenko FTIA

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